December 24th, 1999

The Black Jag nosed around a corner and into the sluggish early evening traffic. Although it was only 5:30 p.m., the Denver sky overhead was black. An Arctic cold front from Canada had kicked up the wind and usual inversion smog had been cleaned out. The stars that managed to outshine the city lights twinkled above. The air was dry, but cold, ruling out all hopes for a white Christmas.

The windows of the Jag were up to protect the occupants from the frigid temperatures.

It was Christmas Eve and the city streets were festooned with bright, colored lights, twinkling icicle lights hanging from rafters and porches, and red bows wrapped around streetlights. Snowmen and snow-covered trees graced store windows and, here and there, a menorah, or, in Purgatorio, piñatas could be seen as well.

The holiday spirit was everywhere, in the streets and in the full hearts of the Jag's passengers. They raised their voices in joyous song as they drove along.

". . .They never did let poor Rudolph," caroled Ezra Standish and JD Dunne, who could both carry a tune.

"Rudolph," echoed Buck Wilmington, who could not.

". . .play in any reindeer games."

"Like Monopoly."

It was fortunate for the citizens of the Mile High City that the windows were rolled up, blocking the sounds of the impromptu concert.

The men pulled to a stop at an intersection in the heart of Purgatorio, just a few blocks from St. Philip's, their intended destination.

Buck glanced out the passenger window and beamed. He tipped his hat at the street-corner Santa, who did a double-take and then made an obscene gesture.

Buck pressed the button, sending the window down, and yelled, "Scrooge!"

Ezra and JD both yelled, "Buck!"

"Roll up the window!" JD yelped. "It's freezing out there!"

"Did you see that?" Buck demanded, pressing the button again. "How does a man like that end up in a Santa suit?"

"He probably needs the additional cash," Ezra replied drolly.

"You're supposed to be full of ho-ho-ho! Embrace peace on earth, jingle bells and-"

"He's probably freezing his nuts off out there," JD said, interrupting. "That's got to affect his Christmas spirit."

Buck thought for a moment, then nodded. "Okay, good point."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

"Where the hell are those guys?" Nathan asked.

Vin shrugged and Josiah shook his head, indicating that they didn't have a clue.

Chris walked into the room and glanced around. "There's not here yet?"

"It's gonna take some time for Ezra t' get over t' their place and get back here," Vin offered.

Larabee sighed. "Yeah, I guess so." Then he looked at Josiah and said, "You ready for me to glue on your beard?"

The big man nodded and flashed him a toothy grin.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Officer Moises Ramirez stared morosely at his fortune cookie.

"Hey, Mo, que pasa?" his partner asked.

"Aw, nothing. . . Well, everything, really."

The man waited for a moment, then sighed. "So, you gonna tell me, or do I have to worm it out of you? Hey, you gonna eat that cookie?"

"Yeah, I'm gonna eat it," Ramirez replied, popping it into his mouth and taking a sip of his tea before he started to chew. Before he swallowed he asked, "You ever watch old cop shows when you were a kid?"

"Yeah, sure, didn't everybody? What's that got to do with anything? You gonna finish the rest of your pork fried rice?"

Ramirez ignored the question. "You ever notice how they always had something interesting going on at Christmas? You know, a berserk Santa, or Santa-thieves, or somebody stealing statues of the blessed Virgin out of churches, runaway donkeys, stuff like that?"


"What do we get? Nada. Just the same old stuff - domestic violence, brawls, dead bodies. . . Only difference is the shoplifting calls goin' up."

"What're you gettin' at?"

"Just once, I want something out of the ordinary to happen. You know, something. . . Christmassy."

"Man, you're just weird, you know that? You gonna finish that rice?"

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

JD plucked at his tights, or "pantyhose" as Buck had called them. "How do women wear these things? My legs itch."

"Stop that," Buck said, turning in the seat to peer at JD. "You'll put a run in 'em if you keep doing that."

"Yes, please decease, Mr. Dunne. If we damage these costumes, I have no doubt Mr. Larabee will force us to pick up the entire cost of the rentals."

"Reminds me a little of Halloween last year, you remember?" Buck asked the two men and chuckled.

"It would be impossible to forget," Ezra replied dryly. "Try as I might."

JD snickered. "Hey, Buck, you ever hook up with that, uh, well-appointed horsewoman?"

Wilmington's eyes danced with amusement. "Some of the best riding lessons I ever had, son."

"You think the kids will recognize us?" JD asked, changing the subject.

"Ya mean Santa and his six elves?" Buck questioned. "Yeah, probably, but they'll love it."

"No doubt Father Andrew will as well," Ezra added. He could already imagine the man trying to holdback his laughter when he saw them.

"Gives me a good feeling, seeing those kids' eyes light up," Buck said honestly.

"Yeah, me, too," JD agreed. "I'm just glad somebody else is running the Christmas pageant this year."

Buck and Ezra both laughed. "Yeah, no more live births for this bunch," the ladies' man added.

The bell on Ezra's cap jingled merrily as he looked back over his shoulder. The lane behind him was clear, so he signaled and eased over.

"Hey, Buck," JD said, "how do you think elves, uh, you know. . ."

"What?" the big man asked.

"Make baby elves. . . elfettes?"

"Like I'd know?"

"Well, since you slept with a centaur. . ."

Buck rolled his eyes and glanced over at Ezra. "I can tell you this, though, elves don't wear Guchi loafers."

Standish shrugged. "Those leather monstrosities they called 'shoes' pinched my feet."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

"One Peter three," the radio in the patrol car announced, "we have a report of a domestic disturbance - husband beating. Weld and Adams. See the man."

Ramirez turned on the lights and siren. "A husband beating?"

"Well, you were the one who wanted something different," his partner replied.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

"Ho, ho, ho," Josiah practiced, staring at himself in the mirror. He hitched the wide black belt he was wearing a little higher.

"Hey, sounds good, J'siah," Vin said, joining him.

"Thank you," Josiah replied. "Where have you been?"

"Checkin' out the house. All the kids are ready an' primed. Too bad you can't slid down the chimney. . ."

"Get stuck in the chimney and end up on the ten o'clock news I think you mean," Nathan cut in.

"You see Chris?" Vin asked Jackson.

"He was talking to Father Andy," Nathan replied.

"Where are the rest of my little helpers?" Josiah queried.

Vin checked his watch. "They still got forty minutes. Maybe they stopped for coffee."

"In these getups?" Nathan asked.

"Okay, good point. They got time, though, don't worry."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

The Jag pulled up at yet another light. A long gray limo slipped up on the right. Ezra, fingers drumming on the steering wheel, glanced absently in its direction. It was quite a sight for the rundown streets of Purgatorio - where even the drug dealers knew to use low-profile cars, or they were likely to be boosted and end up in a chop-shop.

There were two men in the car. The driver was unfamiliar, but the man in the passenger seat was all too familiar. "That's Rupert Dengler!"

"Where?" Buck demanded, instantly alert.

"In the limo!" JD cried.

They had been looking for Dengler for several months, ever since a near disastrous raid at the man's Aspen estate. They had managed to catch all of the man's goons, but the big man himself had slipped through their fingers. And all of their subsequent efforts to find him had turned up nothing. As Team Seven usually got whoever they went after, Dengler's escape rankled the ATF agents. The world didn't need another arms dealer running around.

At that same instant, Dengler saw them as well. "Step on it. Feds," he told the driver.

The driver checked his rearview mirror. "Where?"

"Next to us, you idiot!" Dengler hissed.

The man looked. "Hell, they're not Feds, they're. . . elves?"

"Move it!"

The limo roared forward, tires squealing, into the intersection. Ezra stomped down on the accelerator and they were off in hot pursuit.

In the nearby doorway of the Gonzalez Brothers Body Shop, Candy Panz, part-time stripper and full-time hooker turned to her friend. "You aren't going to believe this, but I swear I just saw three green men in a Jag, and they was chasin' a limo."

"Girl, what 'u been smokin'? I gots to get me some 'a that shit!"

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Dengler's limo wheeled into an alley and barreled down it, the Jag hot on its tail. Ezra, eyes narrowed in concentration, the bells on his hat ringing madly, struggled to avoid careening into the side of a building.

Buck, who had made a dive between the seats to retrieve his gun and badge from JD, was thrown off balance and found it impossible to extricate himself from his topsy-turvy position as the Jag weaved back and forth.

"Ezra!" he yelled when his head hit the side of the car and then JD's knee. "Slow down, will ya!?"

"If I do, Dengler will escape."

The limo ploughed out of the alley, through an intersection, and into another alley. Muttering a quick prayer, Ezra stayed with the vehicle.

The chase ended abruptly when the limo slammed into a dumpster. The driver was pinned behind the wheel, uninjured, but unable to move. Dengler, however, jumped out and sprinted for the crowded street beyond.

"Freeze!" Ezra yelled. But the command, coming from a man in an elf suit, lost something in the translation.

Buck had managed to right himself get out of the car. He and JD raced down behind Ezra.

At the end of the alley, they paused and surveyed the street. Dengler was about a hundred feet away, running like a man possessed. And, given the time he was facing in a federal prison, he had reason.

"There he is!" JD cried. "C'mon!"

"We can't go out there dressed like this!" Ezra yelped.

"He's gettin' away!" Buck yelled.


Buck and JD took off after the man, and Ezra had no choice but to follow them.

Dengler was just ahead, but he spotted them, and ducked into the Knock 'em Back Liquor Store.

The three agents charged into the store after the man. Buck remembered the place from when he'd been a beat cop with the DPD. He headed for the stairs that led up to a second floor office. The man seated behind the desk burst out laughing when he saw them.

"Where's Dengler?" Buck demanded.

The man only laughed harder, pounding his palm against his desktop.

"There!" JD said, pointing through the window to the building across the alley. Dengler was on the roof of the building.

JD was down the stairs, across the space separating the buildings, and halfway up the fire escape before Ezra and Buck reached the alley.

"Go around!" Buck instructed Ezra, grabbing the ladder and starting up after JD.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

JD raced past a man and woman on the rooftop, thinking it must be hard to, uh, well, do what they were doing when it was so cold out.

The prostitute looked up, started. "Madre Dios!"

"Oh shit," her inebriated john said. "Oh shit, shit, shit!"

"What?" she asked him.

"I shouldn't be here," the man said. "That was a sign. . . from God!"

"A sign?" she asked, confused.

He nodded. "Didn't you just see Peter Pan by fly? It's a sign from God that I should be home with my wife and kids."

She shook her head. "I think it's just-"

"Holy crap! I'm goin', Lord, I'm goin'!" He grabbed his coat and pants. "I gotta go, sweetheart, he just flew by again!"

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

"One Peter Three," the radio squawked, "we have a code. . . I guess it's a code. . . No. . ." The dispatcher paused. "Look, I don't know what the code is, but we have a report of a man being chased down Triadad Avenue by three elves."

"Now we're talkin'!" Ramierz said, grinning from ear to ear.

His partner just rolled his eyes and flipped on the siren.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

When the end came, the chase had gone on about twenty minutes, and the denizens of Purgatorio had been treated to a Christmas pageant they would no doubt remember for years to come.

For the people leaving Mass at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, it was the slight of Buck, vaulting over a railing and landing, feet first, in an open trash can.

For the families living in the Broadway Arms Apartments, it was the sight of JD, tripping over his shoe laces and rolling musically to the bottom of the stairs.

For Tulio Fernandez, it was the first time he'd actually finished all of his peas. His parents didn't know it, but it was because he was sure he'd seen the Jolly Green Giant, glaring at him through the window.

And for Rupert Dengler, his arrest would be a story he could use to regale his fellow cons with for many Christmases to come. He ran until he just couldn't run any more. Trapped by a tall fence he was too winded to climb, he surrendered peacefully.

"Cuffs?" Ezra asked, holding out his hand.

Buck and JD exchanged glances. "Uh, they're at home," JD said.

"Didn't think we'd need 'em at the church," Buck added.

"But you brought your guns and badges?"

"Hey," Buck replied, "Chris and Vin are gonna be there!"

Standish considered that for a moment. "Point well taken," he said at last. "However, how do you propose we secure this felon?"

"Pantyhose," JD said.

"What!?" Buck demanded.

"Take 'em off," JD told his friend and rommie. "You can use 'em to tie him up."

"It's freakin' freezing out here!" Buck argued. "And you want me to take off my pants?!" He looked at Ezra.

"Oh no, don't look at me," Standish replied. "We both have our images, Mr. Wilmington and, quite frankly, yours is. . . Well, I, on the other hand, maintain an image of dignity and professionalism. Not to mention good taste. I am not removing my tights."

Buck scowled. "There's no way I'm takin' these tights off either."

"Hold it, police!" Officer Ramirez and his partner advanced on the foursome, guns at the ready. "Up against the wall!"

"Wait! We're ATF agents," JD said. "Show 'em your badge, Buck."

"Yeah. . . just a second, fellas. . ." Buck pulled the neckline of his tunic out and plunged his hand inside. He located his badge somewhere southeast of his bellybutton and hauled it out.

"Jesus, they are feds!"

Ramirez nodded as he grinned. "I guess what we have here are three undercover agents. . ." His partner giggled. "See, there's this ring led by a jolly old fat man, and he and his goons go around, breaking into people's houses. . . The DA's been wanting to get something on this Claus guy for years. . . Guess he sent these three in to infiltrate the gang. . ."

Both uniformed officers were bent double with laughter moments later.

Ezra saw nothing amusing about the situation. "Gentlemen, I'm assuming one of you have a pair of handcuffs?"

Ramirez handed Standish his, tears streaming down his face as he continued to laugh.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Chris, Vin, Josiah and Nathan crammed the last of the packages into the large green bag. Everything was ready for Santa's big entrance.

From the other side of the wall, the raucous sounds of the children's voices swelled in "Silent Night." Then in mid-line, the singing stopped.

There was a short silence, and then screams, wails and sobs erupted, accompanied by the sound of feet running across the wooden floor of the fellowship hall.

Larabee snapped to attention and listened for a second. "Trouble," he barked.

The men immediately shouldered their way into the hall.

Chaos reined. Children and parents milled in confusion. Some of the kids were laughing, others cried in fear. And, in the midst of it all, were their three missing elves, being escorted by two of Denver's finest, whose shoulders were shaking with laughter.

JD's hat was rammed down over one slowly blackening eye. His upper lip was swollen. Blood from his nose stained the front of his tunic, and there was a run in his green pantyhose.

Buck's tunic was ripped under each arm, his pantyhose had several runs, and the belled tip of his hat drooped at a jaunty angle down the center of his face. When he spotted Larabee, he smiled broadly and pushed the hat back. "Hey, Chris."

Ezra looked immaculate, as usual, from the belled tip of his hat right now to his Guchi loafers.

Larabee moved through the crowd, oblivious to the children who were now screaming delightedly over the sight of Santa. "What the hell happened!" he bellowed at his men.

"Mr. Larabee," Ezra cautioned, looking scandalized, "watch your language. There are children present."

"The hell with- Uh. . ." He suddenly realized he was in danger of shattering a few illusions. "Uh, where have you guys been? You're late."

An angelic smile split Buck's face. "Would you believe we got tangled up in traffic?"

"You the head honcho elf?" Ramirez asked Chris.

"Yeah," he said, looking at the man for the first time.

The two officers both started to laugh harder.

"What?" Larabee demanded.

"Nothin'," the officer said. "We were just wondering. . . Where do you have the flyin' reindeer parked?"

The End


Author's Second Note: I was just in a Christmas mood and recycled one of my favorite old S&H stories. This story first appeared in the Mag 7 zine, Let's Ride #8, published by Neon RainBow Press, Cinda Gillilan and Jody Norman, editors. When we all decided to post the stories that have appeared in the issues of Let's Ride that are more than two years old, we opted to use a generic pen name because, while Nina Talbot is the primary author of this story, she had so much help from the other folks writing for the press that it just made sense to consider the story to be written by the Neon RainBow Press Collective! Resistance was futile. So, thanks to the whole Neon Gang - Dori Adams, Sierra Chaves, Dana Ely, Michelle Fortado, Patricia Grace, Deyna Greywolf, Erica Michaels, Nina Talbot, Kasey Tucker, Rebecca Wright, and Lorin and Mary Fallon Zane. Story lasted edited 10-16-2006. Art by Shiloh (shigal13@excite.com)